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Virginia Coalition: The battle is not over

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Virginia Coalition fundraiser at VIR Hank Humphreys (left) listens as a pair of volunteers tries to interest him in a raffle ticket during the Virginia Coalition fundraiser at Virginia International Raceway. (Doug Ford/Gazette-Virginian)A half-life of a uranium isotope is defined as the time taken for it to decay to half of its original amount of radioactivity, with some of half-lives amounting to hundreds of thousands of years.

The Virginia Coalition and its supporters, however, know the time is now for ensuring the ban on uranium mining in Virginia is kept in place, and that message of urgency was made clear at a Virginia Coalition fundraising event held at Virginia International Raceway on Friday.

The crowd of hundreds included Delegate James Edmunds (R-60th District) and Senator Frank Ruff Jr. (R-15th District), elected officials from the towns of Halifax and South Boston, area business owners, professionals and others who realize the battle to keep the ban is ongoing, despite a victory in the Virginia General Assembly last year.

"There's no other issue as important to this area as keeping the ban," said Edmunds.

A billed introduced in the Virginia Senate last year to lift the moratorium on uranium mining in Virginia did not meet with success, but those who support the lifting of the ban are back with different strategy for the next General Assembly session.

"Last year there was a Senate bill and a House companion bill, and my colleagues in the House told me they wouldn't introduce the bill in the House if it failed in the Senate," explained Edmunds.

"It failed in the Senate so they pulled the bill."

"But, I firmly believe that will not be the case this year. They will push it through the House and get a vote in the House," he continued.

"If it does move through the House, and I suspect it will, then the Senate of course will have a companion bill."

There is strength in numbers for those who support keeping the moratorium on uranium mining in place, Edmunds noted.

"We will still be successful as long as, and I emphasize this a thousand times, as long as we can get people to come to the hearings in the House and Senate."

"They'll see it's impacting a tremendous amount of people."

Those supporting the lifting of the moratorium also are trying to convince the governor he needs to write the regulations as an executive order, something Edmunds feels will effectively lift the ban.

"Thank God, so far he hasn't done it," said Edmunds.

Winning the fight in the legislature this year will take the constant input of citizens, he stressed.

"Citizens can contact the governor's office and say they don't want the ban lifted and don't want an executive order."

Everyone has a stake in continuing the efforts to keep the moratorium in place, according to Ruff, who noted the safety of future generations is at risk if the moratorium is lifted.

"People love this area and we need to do the best we can to protect it for their children, grandchildren and great grandchildren," said Ruff.

The battle is far from over, according to John Cannon, executive director of the Virginia Coalition.

"We have severely wounded our competitor, Virginia Uranium, Inc.," said Cannon, who agreed with Edmunds in that those supporting the lifting of the moratorium are trying a different approach this time around, including influencing the governor's office to start writing the regulations without having had a vote cast by the General Assembly.

"We must be very appreciative of our legislators in the area who have led this attack," Cannon added.

"Delegate James Edmunds and Senator Frank Ruff have championed our efforts along with Delegate Wright and Delegate Marshall, and Delegate Merrick and Senator Stanley.

"We have a unified base of our legislators in Richmond."

That is not enough, Cannon cautioned.

"We need to have our educator/lobbyists working alongside our companion group Alliance for Progress in Pittsylvania (County), under Bill Excel.

Tom Raab, owner of Electric Service Company in South Boston, said if the ban is lifted, it would "absolutely destroy" the business climate in this area.

"An immediate impact is your doctors and professionals who don't have to be here and can go and get a job anywhere are gone," said Raab.

"They'll just leave, so our hospital will suffer, and that will be detrimental to any retail business that's here.

"We'll just become, as I told somebody, a dead zone."

The problem with uranium is you won't see the effects for 30 years, Raab pointed out.

"When those 30 years kick in, everybody's dying.

"People know that, and they're not going to stay here, not going to live here," he explained.

Those who have invested time, effort and money into Halifax County will be big losers, Raab noted.

"For a 15-year period the mine is open, the people who own the mine will be the only ones who will benefit from it," he said.

"Sure, the state will get some income, but not what it will cost down the road to clean it up, and they will have to clean it up," added Rabb.

"There's one on Columbia River, and one right on the rim of the Grand Canyon that's so bad, they tell you not to even set foot on the land, it's that dangerous.

"We're going to have the same thing here, and we just cannot allow this to happen."

Halifax County Planning and Zoning Administrator Robert Love indicated Southern Virginia is already paying the price, although the moratorium has not been lifted.

An attorney practicing in another area had been interested in purchasing lakefront property in Clarksville, Love said Friday at the fundraiser.

Upon studying a GPS map of the location and noting the ongoing debate over the possibility of the moratorium being lifted, he decided against relocating, Love added.

Cannon called Friday's fundraiser a "celebration of our past success and future victory."

"This past year has been a long, hard struggle to keep the ban. We have been successful.

"This has come from efforts of many people, especially the Roanoke River Basin Association (RRBA), of which the Coalition is a member," said Cannon, who also recognized the town councils of Halifax and South Boston and the IDAs of Halifax County and Clarksville for their support in keeping the ban in place.

from The Gazette-Virginian